We teach kids to speak real Spanish. For Life

by Erica Fischer on Jun 19, 2015

Develop and Use Effective Can-Do Statements in Your Classroom. You CAN DO it, too!

Welcome back! Last week, #langchat participants met to talk about can-do statements. They began by defining them and describing the characteristics of an effective can-do statement. Langchatters then discussed strategies that instructors can use to ensure that learners maintain a can-do mindset. They also considered how can-do statements factor into assessment and evaluation. The school year may have come to a close for many, but enthusiasm for the last #langchat until August was high. Participants did everything possible to tune in! @tmsaue1 tweeted from a plane in DC: “Waiting for takeoff. Pretending to be in airplane mode when I’m really in #langchat mode.”

Thank you to all of our fabulous participants and to last Thursday’s moderating team: Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Laura (@SraSpanglish), Amy (@alenord), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), and Colleen (@CoLeeSensei)!

Question 1: What is a can-do statement?

Langchatters started off the hour by attempting to define a can-do statement. Several participants associated can-do statements with proficiency levels. For instance, @alenord said, “A [can-do] statement is [a] measurable goal for student performance based on a proficiency target.” Similarly, @SrtaSpathis wrote, “Can-do statements connect language [and] proficiency. [They] help [students] identify what’s expected (goals) at each proficiency level.” Some instructors described can-do statements as signposts on the road to increased proficiency. @carmenscoggins said, “[Can-do] statements show students their destination and stops along the way.” Additionally, participants noted that can-do statements emphasize achievements rather than shortcomings. As @kballestrini wrote, “Can-dos allow students to internalize and recognize what they know rather than [adopting] the traditional ‘what they don’t know’ [or] got ya [perspective].” @jen_bibby recognized that these statements empower students: “Can-do statements are a POSITIVE way for [students] to take ownership over their learning.”

Question 2: What are the characteristics of an effective can-do statement?

Langchatters reflected on key elements of an effective can-do statement. They noted that such statements consider student proficiency and are achievable, measurable, demonstrable, and learner-friendly!

  • Proficiency-boosting: @MlleSulewski wrote, “[An effective can-do statement is] realistic with regard to proficiency level.” @alenord added that statements should nevertheless support increases in proficiency: “Great [can-do] statements must cause movement up [the] proficiency scale [and should not] just [be a] bunch of little statements.”
  • Achievable: Langchatters also highlighted the importance of making can-do statements achievable in the near future. @BestMomofJames said, “A can-do should be something [students] can do today. I usually make mine too large and then they seem unachievable.” @SenoraDiamond55 advised participants, “Don’t cram too many skills into ONE Can Do. It’s ONE Can Do.”
  • Measurable and demonstrable: @SraStilson pointed out that an effective can-do statement “should be measurable or demonstrable.” She added, “Maybe something along the lines of ‘show me how well you can’ or ‘prove to me that you can…’”
  • Learner-friendly: Participants also recognized the value of taking learners into account when making can-do statements. One participant wrote, “First, can-dos should be written in language that is [learner-friendly].” Additionally, @rlgrandis highlighted the importance of “[student] buy-in,” adding, “[Students] see it’s attainable and they have an idea of how to get there. They even help craft [statements] :).” @jencjencnv agreed that students could be involved in the development of can-do statements: “[Kids] can help to write the [can-dos] based on what they think they should be able to [do] at [the] end of [the] unit.” @SrtaSpathis pointed out that student engagement can also come in the form of reflection: “[Effective] can-do statements engage students in self-reflection, [and] help them create goals [and] self-assess.”

Question 3: What strategies can we use to ensure that learners are thinking about can-dos on a daily basis?

Langchatters have their method of choice for increasing student awareness of can-do statements. As @K_Griffith observed, “The consensus seems to be—‘Put the ‘can-do’ in front of the [students].’” One participant suggested use of entry and exit tickets as a way to help students monitor their progress. Others prefer to post can-dos in the classroom. @alenord said, “I prepare my [can-dos] for each unit, magnetize them, and post them. I move them in and out of daily agenda depending on [the] focus.” @SenoraDiamond55 wrote that instructors could “[post] a daily [can-do and discuss] how [students] can meet it by the end of class.” Alternatively, some participants use paper reminders. For instance, @rlgrandis said, “I print out all of unit can-dos at [the] beginning, [and students] mark where they are. [They refer to the handout] throughout [the] unit until final reflection at [the] end.” @SraSpanglish mentioned portfolios as another option: “It may not be DAILY, but can-do based portfolios keep kids conscious of their skills” Still others provide oral reminders in class. @MmeFarab wrote, “Remind [students] of can-do goal that they’re working on. Most [students] like to know where they’re headed.” @bjillmoore advocated for implicit reminders through continued practice: “[Make students] use the language for that purpose daily – talk, write, talk to one another [or with their] teacher! (I am passionate about this.).”

Question 4: How do can-do statements factor into assessment and evaluation?

Instructors emphasized that can-do statements should be closely related to assessment. @Marishawkins wrote, “Assessment should be an accumulation of the [can-dos]. Demonstrate that you can keep doing it!” Although all felt that can-dos should be evaluated, some participants differed in their preference for design. @rlgrandis said, “[In my opinion,] ALL assessments should be based off of those can-dos. If [students] weren’t given that goal it shouldn’t be evaluated.” Alternatively, @MmeFarab favored backwards design: “I think that the [assessment] should come [first]; that way you know what you’re guiding [students] toward. Backwards design all the way.” Some noted how can-do statements offer insight into assessment content. @SrtaSpathis said, “Can-do statements give [students] insight as to what they’ll be assessed on [and] give teachers direction on what they should be assessing.” @SenoraDiamond55 agreed, writing, “[Can-do] statements inform your [students] (and YOU!) about what matters.” She encouraged instructors to focus on what’s important: “Assess what matters. Do not assess what doesn’t. In other words, if it’s not important enough for a [can-do statement], it’s probably not important enough to spend time assessing.”


#Langchat participants defined can-do statements and pointed out that effective statements consider student proficiency and are achievable, measurable and demonstrable, and learner-friendly. Participants shared their favorite ways of encouraging learners to think about can-dos on a daily basis. They also reflected on the relationship between can-do statements and assessment and evaluation. As always, Langchatters offered encouragement, reminding each other that they CAN DO it.

Thank You!

Thank you to all those who have contributed to #langchat during the past school year! #Langchat will return in August, so stay tuned for the start date! We would like to wish everyone a wonderful summer, and we look forward to seeing participants, both old and new, in the Fall!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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